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Opal Week: Location Tracking with Stephen Blanks

In a series on the changes to the Opal Card systems, NSWCCL Stephen Blanks about the privacy (or lack thereof) on the data gathering in the Opal system. 

Audio: Opal Week: Location Tracking with Stephen Blanks

Source: 2SER Breakfast Show

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Jedi knights don't need protection from free speech

President of NSWCCL, Stephen Blanks, wrote an op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald in defense of the NSWCCL position to oppose religion being added to the racial vilification criteria in upcoming laws. 

Noting the important distinction of 'ethno-religious' groups and 'religion', for example the difference in being a Muslim and a Jedi, Mr. Blanks argues in favour of balance, whereby "Some beliefs which are claimed to be religious, and their adherents, ought to be open to ridicule, even severe ridicule" in the defense of free speech. 

For the full article, see below.

Article: Jedi knights don't need protection from free speech

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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NSW Council for Civil Liberties opposes the inclusion of religion in racial vilification laws.

The Baird government's refusal to legislate against anti-Muslim hate speech is "playing into the hands" of terrorist groups such as Islamic State, as well as extreme right-wing groups, Muslim community leaders and counter-terrorism experts have warned.

The NSW government is formulating a long-awaited overhaul of racial vilification laws, promising to strengthen the legislation and streamline it to make prosecutions easier. Fairfax Media understands the government will not consider including religion in the Act, which outlaws inciting violence based on race, colour, descent or ethno-religious origin.

NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton would not say why religion would be omitted. However a spokeswoman pointed to the government's 2013 review of the Act, which made no recommendation to include religion.

In that review, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties was among those who opposed the inclusion of religion. The council's president Stephen Blanks told Fairfax Media that religion was "not an inherent characteristic of a person like race is ... and one should be free to criticise religion".

NSWCCL stands by this statement and continues to oppose the inclusion of religion in racial vilification laws.

Article: Anti-Muslim hate speech 'fuels extremism', experts say

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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'Nauru Files' confirm inhumane conditions in Australian detention centres

From the GetUp site:

Guardian Australia has released 2000 leaked documents detailing horrifying levels of abuse on Nauru. Once again, all eyes are on the government to see how they respond to this proof of large-scale abuse, including of children. 

These abuses should never have occured. Now, they must end. The government must bring those in its abusive detention camps to safety immediately. 

The entire policy is falling apart - the legal permissions, and the political and corporate support for the camps, are all disappearing. But the government is pretending everything is fine, and the camps are still open. Now the human cost is again laid bare.

Whether it's Nauru or Manus Island, it's clear the Australian Government's abusive detention regime is in a state of complete and utter chaos – and it's harming people.

The Australia Government has been treading water, avoiding facing the reality of its own policy's failure. Now, we must show them the way forward. 

#LetThemStay showed that more people than ever supported allowing people seeking asylum already in Australia to move into our communities. Now, we must prove definitively that our shared compassion extends to those on Manus Island and Nauru – and that the governrment must follow the public, and bring those in its abusive camps to safety in Australia. 

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Stephen Blanks talks about the 2016 Census

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks chats with hosts of 2UE News Talk Radio Jon Stanley and Garry Linnell about the privacy issues around the 2016 Census. 

Audio: Stephen Blanks Chats with John and Garry 

Source: 2UE 954 Radio.

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NSW Police announce plans to give former officers identity cards

Former police officers are to be issued with identity cards they can carry around in their wallet to acknowledge their service. New South Wales Police plans to hand out the first ID cards by the end of the year.

However, Stephen Blanks from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties described the plan as "extraordinary".

"The idea of issuing a card to former police officers is absolutely absurd. It is entirely predictable that it will be used by former police officers to get favours from shops and local businesses, who will feel intimidated into giving free goods and services because of a concern that putting a former police officer offside might cause them trouble."

He said such a card could also be used to fool people into thinking the holder still held a position of authority.

Article: NSW Police announce plans to give former officers identity cards

Source: ABC

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Doctors high court challenge to secrecy regime in immigration centres

NSWCCL wholeheartedly supports the High Court challenge brought by Doctors for Refugees against the Commonwealth and the Minister for immigration and Border Protection in relation to the secrecy provisions of Border Force Act 2015.

 The Act contains provisions which allow for the imprisonment for up to 2 years of doctors, social workers and others who disclose ‘protected’ information regarding conditions in immigration detention centres.

 As a result these  people may be liable to imprisonment for complying with their professional standards and ethical obligation to report abuse, because such abuse occurs in an immigration detention centre. Reporting abuse outside immigration centres is required by legislation, but is criminalized in the context of immigration centres.

 There is no convincing justification for the introduction of such draconian provisions. We believe the only reason for these provisions is to silence those working in detention centres. This is contrary to the principles of transparency and open debate, which are fundamental in a democracy. How can people support government policy when they have no idea what is being done in their name?

 NSWCCL strongly opposed the introduction of the secrecy provisions of the Border Force Act, which were introduced with bipartisan support. These toxic and undemocratic provisions should be repealed immediately. 

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Support for laws to keep terrorists in jail after sentence

The Federal Government received some crucial support today for its plan for a tough new anti-terrorism detention regime.

New laws would let convicted terrorists be kept in jail after finishing their sentences, if they were deemed still to be a risk to the community.

Civil libertarians have raised concerns. Outside wartime, Australian law does not usually allow for indefinite detention.

Stephen Blanks from the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties argues the intense surveillance available under control orders is enough.

STEPHEN BLANKS: What is the point of those halfway regimes if they aren't to keep the community safe within the principles of a free society? And remember, if we give up having a free society, we're creating incentives for terrorists to attack us. 

Article (with Audio): Support for laws to keep terrorists in jail after sentence

Source: ABC PM

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Legal experts divided on Turnbull government's latest terrorism laws

Legal experts are divided on the need for the Turnbull government's latest swath of terrorism legislation that would allow convicted terrorists to be kept in jail once their sentence ended if they were deemed a risk to public safety.

The New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties president, Stephen Blanks, said the legislation was a distraction from the issue of dealing with the risk of terrorism.

"People who have been convicted of serious terrorism offences are in jail for many years to come. We're not being told who is about to be released that they're concerned about." Mr Blanks said.

"With the sex offender cases, there were particular individuals that we were told were about to be released that represented a danger. We're not being given that information now. I don't think there's anybody about to be released, this is possibly just window dressing."

Article: Legal experts divided on Turnbull government's latest terrorism laws

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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Turnbull says terrorist threat in Australia is real as he pushes for indefinite detention

Malcolm Turnbull has warned Australians that the threat of terrorism in Australia is real as the Coalition prepares to push ahead with new measures for indefinite detention of some convicted terrorists after attacks in Nice and Kabul.

His announcements follow his direction for a review by the counter-terrorism coordinator Greg Moriarty on the implications of the lone terrorists such as the attack in Nice, which killed 84 people.

But the president of the New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said it was a fundamental principle of a free society people were “at liberty unless you’ve committed a criminal offence and been convicted”.

“The reality is that anybody leaving jail who the authorities think is not repentant will be subject to the most intensive monitoring that is imaginable,” Blanks told the ABC.

“Terrorism offences are so broad that planning an offence, thinking about planning an offence, attempting to plan an offence, doing any preparatory act is itself a criminal offence so the authorities will pick up anybody who reoffends, like that.”

Article: Turnbull says terrorist threat in Australia is real as he pushes for indefinite detention

Source: The Guardian

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Terrorists may soon be detained indefinitely in Australia

The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has proposed legislation that would allow for convicted terrorists to be held indefinitely in prison if considered a threat.

Australia has no Charter of Human Rights which would require the Parliament or the courts to consider whether counter-terrorism laws comply with human rights principles. Without this charter, the Australian Government can operate in a legal grey area.

The NSW Council of Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks told the outlet there is every possibility these proposals are just "window dressing," as the general public will not be told when terrorists the Government is concerned about are released.

Article: Terrorists may soon be detained indefinitely in Australia (link no longer available)

Source: Mashable Australia

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Laws to keep high-risk terror suspects behind bars an 'attack on a free society'

Proposed laws that would see high-risk terror suspects behind bars have been labelled an attack on freedom by civil liberty groups.

The federal government is reportedly considering fast-tracking laws to keep high-risk offenders locked away, even after their sentence is served.

But Stephen Blanks, president of the NSW council for civil liberties, told Neil Mitchell it wasn't the answer.

He said it undermined one of the key aspects of a free society.

"It's handing terrorists a victory," he said on 3AW Mornings.

Article (with Audio): Laws to keep high-risk terror suspects behind bars an 'attack on a free society'

Source: 3AW Mornings with Neil Mitchell

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Census 2016: changes an "abuse" of public's trust

PRIVACY experts claim people may list false information on next month’s census because their names and addresses will be kept as part of the data.

Previously identifying information was destroyed once the other census data had been recorded but it will now be kept until 2020.

An Australian Bureau of Statistics spokesman yesterday said all personal information would be stored “securely and separate” but the NSW Council for Civil Liberties warned that some people’s concerns over how the government might use the information could cause a backlash of false information, from income bracket to religion.

“If people know their information will be identifiable and retained by the government, then it is very likely some people may chose not to answer all the questions honestly,” president Stephen Blanks said.

“We now have some politicians calling for discriminatory action against people of a particular faith, for example. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to think twice (before filling out the survey).”

Article: Census 2016: changes an "abuse" of public's trust

Source: The Daily Telegraph

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'High Steaks' - Barbecue owners feel the heat

THE great Australian tradition of having friends over for a barbecue might get the chop for unit dwellers under changes to strata laws.

Tenants who create too much smoke when barbecuing their sausages on balconies could face fines of up to $2200 – double the penalty under old laws. It will also impact smokers, if the smoke from their cigarettes or cigars drifts into neighbouring units.

The new rules acknowledge that smoke drift, such as tobacco and barbecue, can be considered a “nuisance or hazard”.

NSW Council of Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said it could be considered un-Australian but there was no civil right to smoke or to barbecue.

“It might be un Australian to try to stop people using their barbecue but problems between neighbours do arise and there needs to be mechanism in place to deal with it,” he said.

Article: Barbecue owners feel the heat (click here for offline version)

Source: Inner West Courier

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Anti-protest laws under the spotlight at pub

NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) president will be guest speaker at New Politics in the Pub on Wednesday July 27 from 6.30pm at the Court House Hotel in Mullumbimby.

The topic of discussion by president Stephen Blanks will be the recently introduced anti-protest laws by the Baird Liberal/Nationals government that radically extends police powers against opponents of mining projects and heavily fines those who ‘lock on’ to mining equipment.

It’s called Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Act 2016 and only passed with votes from two crossbench parties: the Shooters and Fishers Party and Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party.

Article: Anti-protest laws under the spotlight at pub

Source: Echo Netdaily

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Lindt cafe inquiry: Terrorists have rights, says siege cop

The police commander who held off ordering tactical officers to storm the Lindt cafe until after hostage Tori Johnson was killed has told an inquest gunman Man Haron Monis “had the same rights as anyone else”, prompting the victim’s mother to charge out of the courtroom, calling the officer “an absolute disgrace”.

The inquest heard evidence that police commanders cannot order a sniper to kill a hostage-taker, and each officer must make his or her own assessment of whether a shot is ­justified.

Legal experts said that while they thought the police officer’s choice of words yesterday in saying Monis had the “same rights” was ill ­advised, the basic principles of the law in Australia did restrict what police could reasonably do in terms of use of lethal force.

“If someone is in the process of committing a crime, a serious crime, as Monis was, that person can be subjected to a lawful ­response,” the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, solicitor Stephen Blanks, said. “A lawful response enables the police to use all necessary force in order to bring the commission of the crime to an end and to arrest the offender. The police don’t have a right to kill a person who is committing an offence unless the police or somebody else is being seriously threatened and there is no reasonable alternative to the use of lethal force.”

 

Article: Lindt cafe inquiry: Terrorists have rights, says siege cop

Source: The Australian

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NSW Police officer criticised for pointing gun at man after pursuit

Vision of a NSW police officer pointing his gun at a man after a pursuit is reminiscent of the United States and underscores the importance of recording all police interactions, the NSW Council of Civil Liberties says.

Mr Blanks said the incident was reminiscent of high-profile police incidents in the United States, "but for the fact that it didn't end with the driver being shot dead".

"Certainly the timing of this coming to light, when we've seen what's happened in the US, really drives the point home to the public that we need to be safe from police misconduct,"

"We need to see the police management and hierarchy keeping us safe and condemning use of inappropriate force."

"Incidents like this only come to light because they're recorded on video," Mr Blanks said.

NSW Police said in a statement that they would review "the circumstances of the prosecution and the court's decision".

Article: NSW Police officer criticised for pointing gun at man after pursuit

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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Long list of rules ruins fun at Barangaroo

It is almost a year since Sydney Harbour’s $250 million headland reserve opened to the public, but if the 27-page rule book governing what can and can’t be done at the park is anything to go by, visitors haven’t had much fun there.

Critics of the stringent rules say it is just more evidence of Sydney’s “nanny state”, while nearby residents fear the reserve is being taken away from “ordinary people”. Last month, three-year-old Nicholas Atkinson was told to stop flying his kite at the “near-deserted” stargazer lawn he was sharing with “six other people at most”.  

“I thought (the guard) was joking. There was plenty of room and we weren’t inflicting ourselves on other people,” his dad Brendan said.

Stephen Blanks, the president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said the rules went too far and were not in the public interest. “I think it’s a nanny state and it’s also completely inappropriate for a public space to be so closely regulated, particularly when the space is being impinged upon by private development,” he said.

“If you can’t fly a kite in a park, where can you?”

Article: Long list of rules ruins fun at Barangaroo

Source: The Daily Telegraph

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Hornsby Westfield shooting

One of the state’s top cops has defended the two police officers who shot at a knife-wielding man at Hornsby Westfield yesterday but injured three innocent shoppers in the process.

Police have launched a critical incident investigation into the shooting. One of the issues to be investigated will be why a Taser or other options available were not used by the officers.

Assistant Commissioner Denis Clifford said the male and female officers were in a life and death situation when psychiatric patient Jerry Sourian ran at them armed with a large carving knife. He said Sourian was known to police.

Stephen Blanks, the president of the NSW Council of Civil ­Liberties, said an independent ­review was crucial.

“Serious incidents like this where members of the public are injured as a result of the use of police guns require the most thorough investigation because public confidence depends upon knowing they did not do the wrong thing,” Mr Blanks said.

“The public needs to know that police have been properly trained in dealing with people with mental health issues and that they use their guns as a last resort when lives are threatened.”

Mr Clifford said the review would be independent.

Article(s): Hornsby Westfield shooting: Police defend their tactics amid questions about other options

Source(s): The Daily Telegraph; Courier Mail; Perth Now

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President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties speaks up for Sea Eagles' "presumption of innocence" in match fixing allegations

NSW Police have been investigating claims of match fixing in the NRL, and recent reports have focused on the Sea Eagles. While Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Byrne said yesterday that the match fixing investigation was “legitimate and authentic”, NSW Council for Civil Liberties president , Stephen Blanks,  expressed concern for the way in which the investigation is being handled, noting that premature public reporting of the investigation "doesn’t make clear that the people they are investigating are entitled to a presumption of innocence."

"The public should be reminded that whenever police announce investigations that the people they are investigating are innocent until proven guilty and are entitled to their day in court," Blanks said, "“The police stories often operate as a smear and that is why they should refrain from saying too much, especially when investigations are at an early stage.”

See below link for the full story. 

Article: President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties speaks up for Sea Eagles in match fixing allegations

Source: The Daily Telegraph

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